Flat-Coated Retriever vs. Golden Retriever: 5 Key Differences Explained

Written by Niccoy Walker
Published: December 11, 2023
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Whether you’re looking for an affectionate family dog or a dedicated hunting or field dog, retrievers are one of the best options. These friendly, hard-working dogs bring joy to any home. While both breeds are similar in some ways, they differ in others, and it’s important to find the right match for your family and needs. Retrievers are naturally outgoing dogs that are eager to please and crave lots of attention from their families. They are also active and like to stay busy, one more so than the other. Let’s break down the flat-coated retriever vs. golden retriever and compare their appearance, grooming needs, personalities, and more.

Flat-coated Retriever vs. Golden Retriever: A Comparison

ComparisonFlat-coated RetrieverGolden Retriever
Height22 to 24 inches21 to 24 inches
Weight60 to 70 pounds55 to 75 pounds
Coat TypeSmooth, medium-length, double coatSmooth, medium-length, double coat
DroolingLow to moderateLow to moderate
ColorsBlack, liverLight golden, golden, dark golden
PersonalityOpen, good-natured, playfulLoyal, intelligent, affectionate
Energy NeedsHigh energy, needs lots of mental stimulationModerate energy, needs lots of mental stimulation
Life Expectancy8 to 10 years10 to 12 years

The Key Differences Between a Flat-coated Retriever and a Golden Retriever

Flat-coated retrievers have high energy and need lots of exercise, while golden retrievers enjoy lounging.

There are five key differences between a flat-coated and a golden retriever: size, coloring, grooming, personality, and energy needs.

  • Golden retrievers are slightly smaller than flat-coated retrievers.
  • Flat-coated retrievers are black and liver-colored, while golden retrievers come in varying shades of gold.
  • Golden retrievers shed more and require heavier grooming.
  • Both breeds have similar personalities, but golden retrievers can be more serious, while flat-coated retrievers are a little more rambunctious.
  • Flat-coated retrievers have higher energy levels than golden retrievers and need lots of exercise and playtime.


Flat-Coated Retriever standing in the meadow

Flat-coated retrievers are highly athletic dogs with medium-sized builds.


Height and Weight

The flat-coated retriever is a sleek and highly athletic dog with a powerful, medium-sized build. This dog features animated facial expressions that truly express its intelligence and a constantly wagging tail to show its never-ending friendliness. Female flat-coated retrievers stand 22 to 23.5 inches on average, while males are 23 to just over 24 inches. This breed weighs between 60 and 70 pounds.   

The golden retriever is a well-balanced and sturdy medium-sized dog. Similar to the flat-coated retriever, this dog has a muscular build and is a great athlete. Goldens are also notable for their human-like facial expressions and happy wagging tails. Female golden retrievers stand between 21.5 and 22.5 inches and weigh between 55 and 65 pounds. Males are 23 to 25 inches tall and weigh 65 to 75 pounds. The golden retriever is slightly smaller on average compared to the flat-coated retriever.

Coat Type and Colors

The lustrous coat of the flat-coated retriever is smooth and glossy, with feathering on the tail and legs. Their coats are medium length and come in two colors: black or liver. They also do not have any markings. This breed has a thick double coat and features two heavy shedding cycles during the spring and fall. However, these retrievers are heavy shedders throughout the year. 

Like flat-coated retrievers, goldens have smooth and dense coats. They can sometimes be wavy, and the hair appears longer on the undersides. Golden retrievers also have double coats, featuring a soft, fuzzy undercoat and a long overcoat. Along with the two heavy-shedding seasons, goldens are heavy shedders throughout the year, as well. This breed comes in varying shades of golden, from light to dark. They have no markings. 

The golden retriever has varying golden shades, while the flat-coated retriever is black or liver-colored.


Despite its flat coat, the flat-coated retriever requires moderate grooming. Its medium-length coat and moderate shedding require a weekly brushing and combing with a metal comb to ensure all loose hair and dirt are freed. Its floppy ears need to be regularly inspected and cleaned to prevent infections, and the nails need regular trimming.

Golden retrievers have moderate to heavy grooming needs due to their thick, heavy-shedding coats. Because they shed heavily year-round, they need a thorough brushing twice a week to remove dead hair and debris. During the fall and spring, you may need to brush daily. This breed should also be bathed regularly to help loosen dirt and dead hair. Like the flat-coated retriever, goldens need monthly ear cleanings and nail trimmings.

Golden retrievers require more grooming due to their heavy shedding, including daily to weekly brushings. Flat-coated retrievers need weekly brushing.


Golden retriever stands on the grass and looks forward

Golden retrievers make excellent family pets due to their eager-to-please behavior.

©Burin P/Shutterstock.com

Flat-coated Retriever vs. Golden Retriever: Personality and Family Life

Are you looking for an eternally happy and forever young-at-heart pup that shows endless affection? The flat-headed retriever is for you! This dog is happy-go-lucky, funny, confident, and a little mischievous. It makes an excellent family pet or gundog and does best with active owners who are delighted by its boundless energy and rambunctious behavior. Flat-coated retrievers are super affectionate, excellent with children, and get along well with other dogs and pets. They are also open to strangers, adapt easily to new situations, and love to play non-stop.

Golden retrievers also make excellent family pets or gundogs due to their eager-to-please behavior, friendly demeanor, and absolute loyalty. While they are playful and affectionate, they also have a serious side that makes them excellent service dogs. Goldens are super intelligent and have an endless zest for life that lights up any home. This breed is loving to its family, superb with children of all ages, and easy-going around other dogs. It also treats everyone like its best friend and can adapt easily to new situations.

While both breeds are affectionate, playful, and active, golden retrievers can be more serious, while flat-coated retrievers are a little mischievous.

Physical and Social Needs

The flat-coated retriever has a very high energy level and requires daily adventure, where they can run, jump, and freely play. They do best in families with active lifestyles that can keep up with this pup’s need for exercise and playtime. Flat-coated retrievers are social dogs that thrive on attention and affection, so they need owners who are willing to make their social needs a priority. This breed also requires lots of mental stimulation to keep its mind busy, such as a job or activity. Without adequate things to do, this breed may resort to chewing and destroying things you wish they didn’t.

The golden retriever is playful and energetic, but not as much as the flat-coated retriever. Goldens are perfectly fine with going on adventures or lounging around the house as long as there is a balance. They do best in families that stay active but who can also plan for downtime. They, too, are social animals that require lots of love and attention to keep them happy. And they need lots of mental stimulation in the form of a job or activity to keep them sane.

Flat-coated retrievers have higher energy levels than golden retrievers and require active families to keep up with their needs.

Flat-coated retriever puppies playing

Both retriever breeds enjoy canine sports, hunting trips, and any other adventure.



Flat-coated retrievers are eager to please and very easy to train. These dogs are intelligent and catch on quickly to new commands. However, they don’t respond well to harsh or overly firm training methods. Flat-coated retrievers are a sensitive breed that requires a gentle hand. They do best when socialized early and attend puppy training classes. They do not do well when left alone unattended for long periods. 

Golden retrievers are very similar to flat-coated retrievers for training. They are loyal and eager pups who catch on quickly and love to learn new tasks. These dogs are very intelligent and do well when socialized early to become well-adjusted adults.


Flat-coated retrievers are highly active and have endless energy. This sporting breed needs plenty of daily exercise in the form of long play sessions and walks. They also benefit from obedience and agility training to keep their bodies and minds active.

Goldens are similar in their exercise and mental stimulation needs. They need daily exercise and love to go on jogs and long walks. Both breeds enjoy canine sports, hunting trips, and anything else that gets them out of the house and on an adventure.

Health Factors

Life Expectancy and Health Problems

Flat-coated retriever average lifespan: 8 to 10 years

Golden retriever average lifespan: 10 to 12 years

Flat-coated retriever common health problems: hip dysplasia, cataracts, bloat, lymphosarcoma, luxating patellas

Golden retriever common health problems: hip dysplasia, bloat, obesity, epilepsy, heart disease, cataracts

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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